Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Diary of Gideon Welles.

Diary of Gideon Welles.

January 22, 2014

Diary of Gideon Welles

January 22, Friday. Very little done at the Cabinet. Stanton, Usher, and myself were the only ones present. Some general talk and propositions. Last night the President gave a dinner to the members of the Cabinet, judges of the Supreme Court, and a few others, with their wives. It was pleasant. A little stiff and awkward on the part of some of the guests, but passed off very well.

The challenge of Fox has created some noise. When read in the Chamber of Commerce, Moses H. Grinnell appeared much disturbed, — said the Navy had no fast boats, the challenge was improper, undignified, etc. Moses unwittingly showed his true colors, — was drawn out. He has professed to be friendly, but I have not been deceived by him, for I have been satisfied that he was secretly inimical, though not with manly courage to avow it. Moses has been a successful merchant, and generous with his money in a certain way. He has some good and some weak qualities in his profession, but his great failing has been in political aspirations. With commercial party principles, no sound or correct knowledge of government, or of individual rights, he has hungered for office and believed that money ought to secure it. He has seen with envy the success of Morgan and some others, whom he believes no more capable or deserving than himself, and had hoped the change of administration would bring him into distinction. It had been his hope that Seward would have the nomination at Chicago, and he showed grief and great vexation as well as others over the result. When President Lincoln came to Washington, he was invited to, and did, breakfast with Moses at his house in New York. But these attentions failed to bring the coveted honors. He had been a large shipping merchant and why should he not be Collector or even take charge of the Navy. His friend Seward was in the Cabinet but from western New York. Moses lived in the ‘city of New York, and was from New England. All did not answer. After the blockade was declared he came twice to Washington and wanted, evidently, to be consulted. On one, and perhaps both occasions, he brought with him C. H. Marshall, an old ship-master, opinionated, conceited, and infinitely worse than Grinnell. I treated them courteously, listened to their opinions, invited them to be communicative, but did not adopt their views. Marshall, however, declared himself well satisfied with what he understood to be the management of the Department, and Grinnell did not dissent. This was, I think, in May, 1861. Some two months, perhaps, later, Moses was again in Washington; wanted the Department to procure more vessels; urged the purchase of a fleet of merchant ships on which there might be placed a small armament to establish an efficient blockade. I gave but little attention to his advice or offers of service. Two good steamers in my opinion would be more effective than the sixty sailing vessels which he proposed to purchase. By the kindness of Mr. Seward he had an interview with the President and laid before him his plans. Charleston he would blockade with ten or a dozen ships lying off outside. I happened to enter the President’s room about the time Grinnell was leaving, and he spoke quite oracularly about the “swash channel”; repeated that expression several times. He knew the harbor and the “swash channel.” Could blockade it with ten or a dozen good ships. The President subsequently informed me of the plan of Mr. Grinnell, in the presence of the Secretary of State, and each of them kindly commended him. I told them I knew Mr. Grinnell well, but that my views did not correspond with his, and my arrangements were not such as would admit of employing him.

On several occasions since I have had the benefit of Mr. G.’s advice and promptings, but am not aware that I was ever benefited by either. His friend Marshall was sometimes artfully pushed forward and chafed into an abuse of me personally. It has been some time, however, since I have been assailed by him personally, and he does not appear to have united with Moses on this occasion.

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